Hoof Trimming Intervals (Book Excerpt)

How often a horse needs trimming depends on many factors, particularly how fast his hooves grow. A shod horse usually needs trimming every four to ten weeks (depending on his growth rate), since there is no way for the hoof to wear naturally. (Feet tend to grow faster in summer and slower in winter, but there will be a more consistent difference between individuals than between seasons.)



If the horse is barefoot, trimming intervals may depend almost entirely on how fast his feet wear. If he has ideal conditions for space and exercise, he should wear the hooves at about the same rate they grow; they seldom need trimming. The feet may occasionally need to be smoothed to prevent or halt chipping or cracking, but very little hoof wall needs to be removed.

By contrast, a horse in a stall, pen, or soft pasture will need regular foot trimming. If the foot does not have ideal conditions, it may need trimming even more often than if the horse were wearing shoes--to keep the foot from splitting or cracking in dry conditions or splaying out in wet conditions. In poor environments, shoes can protect the foot that would otherwise break or crack. Diligent and frequent trimming and smoothing may be necessary.

Similarly, a horse with a foot problem (severe crack, chronic founder, crooked legs and feet that become unbalanced because of uneven wear, etc.) needs to be trimmed often. With an unbalanced foot or a chronic problem in which part of the horn grows faster, frequent trimming to remove the regrown horn can keep the foot at its most ideal shape and balance. Trimming can also relieve pressure on a crack and help it grow out faster. A severely cracked foot may continue to crack if a hoof is allowed to grow much between trimming intervals; the long foot puts more widening forces on the crack.

There are no specific guidelines for how often a horse's hooves need to be trimmed. You must figure this out for yourself, taking each horse's individual needs into consideration. The worst thing about this lack of specific guidelines is that some horse owners leave the shoes on too long--sometimes so long that the shoes eventually come loose and fall off on their own--and the feet don't get trimmed as often as they should.

A horse whose feet have grown too long because shoes are left on may suffer leg wounds, striking himself with long hooves. He may also be at risk for strained legs, contracted feet, corns, and other injuries due to long feet and shoe pressure. Because the hoof wall grows perpendicularly from the coronary band, the horse's base of support grows out from under him if shoes are left on too long. This strains flexor tendons and the navicular bone inside the hoof, as well as all foot and leg joints. Shoes worn too long may become thin and loose, sometimes bending and shifting, causing corns (from pressure on bars or sole) or nail punctures. The healthiest situation is to trim and shoe at more appropriate intervals.


Purchase a copy of Understanding Equine Hoof Care for $10.95 at ExclusivelyEquine.com.

About the Author

Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at http://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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